Not-so-obvious Lessons Learned from Inc 5000 Founders and CEOs – 700th Episode

A seven-year journey to get here. We reached 700 episodes and this very special one is just me. You get a summary of the not-so-obvious lessons from the Inc 5000 founders and CEOs. These lessons will challenge you and what you think to be right. I’m fine with pushing you to see a new perspective. You will discover lessons from proven leaders that have been in the top 1 percent in terms of revenue growth. Some of these are behind-the-scenes issues that sabotage my clients. Some are directly from interviews on the show. The most important thing is understanding even just one of these seven lessons will give you more power and clarity to be a more confident leader. They will guide you to extraordinary results. The not-so-obvious lessons in leadership will allow you to think about how you are able to evolve in each of the seven areas. Join me today in this very special — number 700 — and lean in to see which message is the breakthrough you need. You don’t have to be one of the Inc 5000 founders to benefit from these lessons. We all need these seven insights.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Another special episode here on Growth Think Tank. I can’t wait to share with you what I’ve planned for you today, because this is a celebration of 700 episodes, well, 699 episodes before this, but you get I love what I’m doing. I love working with founder CEOs, fast growth companies, many of my clients on the Inc 5000. And I really love to tune in to what’s working, what’s not working. And I want to share with you some of those lessons today. These are the not-so-obvious lessons from the leaders of the Inc 5000. When you think about your job as a leader, I’m going to admit, it’s difficult because we’re told not to multitask, right. But here’s the reality of running a fast-growing company, you’ve got to juggle a lot of things.

There are so many strategies are so many people, there are so many things, you have to pay attention to put energy into that it can be overwhelming, and I totally get it, I was there to my company grew really fast. And I wasn’t prepared to lead and create a culture that really went beyond just my leadership. And all of the lessons that I’ve learned through doing this podcast, by working with people that are on the frontlines, those leaders in the trenches is exactly what I’m sharing with you. So we’re gonna go through these seven not-so-obvious lessons to help you really move forward as a leader. So let’s dive in.

Problems are not the Enemy [1:28]
The first one is “Problems are not the Enemy”. I know, problems are not something you want to address. All successful people think when they get to a certain point, that the problems will be dissipated, that they will be minor. But here’s the reality. Everyone has problems. I can remember doing a speech, and someone talked about, we don’t use that word in our company, we call them challenges instead. And here’s the reality, I get the idea of language around problems. But when you don’t acknowledge the problem, it really is a problem. Because when you acknowledge it, you give a chance to see the options in front of you, you give a chance to really figure out what needs to happen in order to address the problem. But when you don’t acknowledge the problem, you don’t really understand it, you don’t take the time to go deep into it and see what’s causing the problem. You’re missing an opportunity to address something in your business. I can remember one of my clients said, okay, we’ve grown really fast lately. But the one thing I’m concerned with is my sales team. So great. What’s really going on here?

Well, you talked about the problem, by acknowledging the problem, we were able to look at the options in front of him and be able to create a strategy or plan of attack to make sure that this is minimized. And it really is addressed. And in fact, we’re going to spend the entire year this year focusing on how to improve that sales team’s performance to match the production team or the operations team have the business and we get that done. people realize that the company is at a totally different level than it is today. Problems are not the enemy. In fact, problems are just feedback along the journey of your success along the journey of your greatness. And I share this with you because many leaders that I talked to don’t want to acknowledge their problems. I talked to them on the phone, I talked to them on zoom chats. And they’re like, everything’s great. Guess what, everything’s not great. There’s something in your life, that’s not the way you want it to be. Maybe it’s in your business, fine. Maybe it’s in your health, you’re not really at the weight you want to be maybe don’t have the energy you want to maybe it’s in your relationships, no matter what it is. Problems are not the enemy. You want to acknowledge those problems so that you can move forward.

Employees First [3:49]
Number two out of seven “Employees First”. Yep, I said it, employees, first, as a leader, the most important thing when you’re scaling your company, is to make sure your employees feel like they’re first. I know you probably think it’s customers, many people do. And I’ve talked to a lot of very successful people who will adamantly believe that it’s got to be customers first. But here’s the thing. When leaders put customers First, there’s just a small twinge, that the employees don’t matter as much. But what really happens is leaders tend to put customers first, they tend to put revenues first profits first, metrics first, and employees are left behind. So why do I say that employees first is the right way for leadership?

Well, I’ve had hundreds of interviews with these Inc, 5000 founders, and CEOs and I do this impossible question. That question is, as a leader of a fast-growing company, what’s more important, your customers or your employees, and 94% of the time, they will say its employees and I asked them why. And they very clearly are Because my job is to make sure they’re doing their best they’re playing at the most optimal level, if we’re going to scale fast, I want my employees to feel engaged to feel a sense of ownership about what we’re doing. And when I make them feel like they’re first, they will put the customers first, because the company has to put the customer first, the company has to drive results to drive value in the marketplace, whatever the reason, is, whatever you sell, most of my clients sell services. And it’s very true with services. But it’s also true with products. If you want repeat buyers, you want loyalty, you want to make sure the whole company is putting the customer first. But in order to get there, what I truly believe, is that employees are first in the leader’s mind, meaning they are developing, they are growing, they are aligned on a mission and vision. There’s a sense of transparency and inclusion. And they feel empowered to move forward. I could go on and on about this, but I’m gonna put a link inside the show notes so that you can go to some resources about an article I wrote for ink magazine, that link short article, but it’ll tell you exactly what the core elements of employee first are and why it’s so important.

Time to think [6:16]
Number three, and that not so obvious lessons from the Inc 5000. This one is very, very important. And it really is often overlooked. Number three is “Time to think” a lot of successful leaders believe they have to schedule their calendar so that there are no breaks that there’s really, one meeting after another. And maybe you have a little bit of break, maybe for a bio break. But are you intentional about time to think here are some of the problems that 2020 has caused. One is commutes. If they are there, they’re faster. And if you’re still working remotely, there are no communities, there are no boundaries. And so there’s really not that much time for you to think, even subconsciously, to really just let your mind wander about some of the things that you’re facing, looking around the corner, looking at the future. And that is a big problem. The second part behind this and I’ve had a number of people talk about this is they miss airports, as much as we all hate traveling and all the time that we waste by sitting in airports and waiting sitting on airplanes, it really has been something that people miss, because that has been a time where they think they think about the people the organization’s what’s missing. What’s next. And when you don’t have those spaces, you have to intentionally put that in your schedule, you have to make time to walk, one of the things I really love to do is to go for a walk by myself without my cell phone. I know I said it without my cell phone. Why would I do that?

Well, I go for a walk so that I can be with my thoughts, I can think about my thinking I can think about what’s next I can think about where I’m missing the opportunity to show up, I can go back to number one and think about my problems. When you have time to think you give your mind a chance to breathe about what’s really going on in the company. But when you over-schedule yourself and you overcommit, you miss that space, and it is dangerous, absolutely dangerous. I’ve enjoyed going on walks with my wife daily, I’m doing this thing called 75. Hard, you haven’t heard it, check, take a look at it. It really requires me to work out twice a day. But I’m working at one of those with my wife most of the time and we’re walking, no cell phones just chatting, talking about the future talking about the business what’s going on in our lives. It’s very important to intentionally schedule.

Listening is a superpower [8:38]
Number four in the not-so-obvious lessons from leaders of the Inc 5000 is this. “Listening is a superpower”. I know you think you listen well enough. But here’s the thing. I do a lot of this leadership 360 feedback where I get feedback from direct reports of CEOs of fast-growing companies. And the number one thing that comes back every time is they don’t feel heard. They don’t feel like you’re listening. They feel like maybe you’re somewhere else your mind is racing. And they understand that you’ve got so much going on on your plate and they have empathy for that. But they also want to feel hurt. And here’s the thing about communication. A lot of people think it’s about word choice or even the tone of voice. But what about your listening? Most people listen to respond. But are you truly listening so that you can understand and connect with that person? This is a different level of listening. Active listening is really listening for what’s not being said, looking at the body language, getting a feeling for this, and having a conversation about that. Maybe that leads you down a path of you know, what are you really afraid of here? What’s really going on.

Getting to the heart of it is the real strength and a superpower and leadership. And here’s the thing, absolutely free. You can listen and it costs you nothing. It costs them nothing and in fact, They will probably give you a better connection, their work will be a lot more committed because they understand that you have listened to them. And you will be perceived as a more effective leader just by listening. One of the things you can do to spark this, and it’s very simple, ‘s instead of holding this or instead of having it on the desk, is for you to visibly put it away. Or maybe even close your laptop, any electronics that are in your view, when you’re talking to someone actually takes away from it, you don’t have to be looking at it or even holding it. But it’s, it’s there, it takes a little bit of energy away from that connection. And just putting it away moving, it will create some kind of connection that you can really build on when you’ve truly listened. Listening is a superpower.

Energy Management Matters [10:50]
Alright, number five, in the not-so-obvious lessons of leadership from the 5000 is this “Energy Management Matters”. What is energy management? Well, energy management is really tuning into what drains energy from you. And what gives you energy. There are some things that might be neutral, but for the most part, things either give you energy, or they drain it away. And your job as a leader is to protect yourself first. Right? really protect your energy. Are those meetings that you go to giving you energy? Are you frustrated? Are you feeling anxiety? Or do you have everything around you, that gives you energy, but when you focus on what your energy levels are around people around projects, then you will be able to tune in to this. And in fact, there’s a lot more than just the people in front of you. Energy Management really is about your nutrition. It’s about your health. It’s about your relationships, because most of the time, our energy drainers are not even something right in front of us. There’s something that we’ve done to ourselves, the relationships in our life, right? Some people are energy givers. And some people are energy drainers your job as a CEO or a founder of a fast-growth company is to identify what the energy management issues are, remove the drainers or move them to another level, have a conversation about this energy level. But then also to manage the energy of the entire organization to really look at what matters.

One of the things I’ve been doing. And this really helps me is I workout in the morning, I have a routine that a lot of people probably have. But I love my routine. I love really getting up to work early. I love getting into the gym by 630. Yes, I’m working before 630. And then I love truly just connecting with the moment I’m in. All of that gives me so much energy before 730. And I am done. Get a cup of coffee, and I’m back at work. I love this approach for me. What is your way of managing your energy and creating the most energy to start the day because be when the morning you win the day? I truly believe this.

Maybe you do too. If you’re a night owl, you’re gonna think against me. But I really do believe that those CEOs who are most successful, are winning the morning. And they’re managing their energy and very intentional about what takes away. And what gives them energy. Energy Management matters.

Culture begins earlier than you think [13:33]
Number six, and the not so obvious lesson of leadership from the Inc 5000 is this “Culture begins earlier than you think”. Now I don’t care what size your company is, culture is a very critical element to the success and the scalability of what you have going. Culture is about how we get work done. It’s about how we communicate with each other, the tone of energy around us how we feel about others. Culture defines every part of this. Now, why do I say it starts earlier than you think because I work with a lot with companies that believe that they’re so focused on the execution of the day’s work, the goals, the processes, the systems, and those are important. But if you aren’t intentional about the dynamics of culture, then you really lose the opportunity to drive the business beyond just you. Because a lot of the early-stage companies I work with are really struggling in the founder to CEO kind of movement, that journey is really hard because you have to let go of an identity of being the founder, and this is your baby. And this is your family to create something bigger than what you’ve ever done before.

Every company that I talked to in the podcast has the ability to scale because they have paid attention to culture. They know that there are some missing systems inside of their culture that can really move things forward. One of my favorite stories And the easiest thing you can do to drive culture forward is to pay attention to the values that you have in the organization. And I don’t mean pay attention once and create them. I mean, pay attention to them every day, pay attention to how you’re living the values operationalizing the values. This is an opportunity that CEOs that are playing at a level of greatness, understand that culture is so important. Now, one way that you can actually control or really enhance the culture you have is by living the values that you set out before, maybe at some point in time, they were aspirational. And that’s fine. When you have aspirational values, you’re striving for something that you’re not today, but that you will become. And as a team, if you rally behind that, you have a chance to really realize those values.

The most powerful way I’ve seen doing, this is what I call value shoutouts. And I had a client recently tell me, this is really a powerful way for them to connect together around the values. At the start of every meeting, they take just a few minutes, maybe three or four minutes. And they give a shout-out to any person that is demonstrating a value that they’ve already defined. And so if one of your values is the bias for action, for example, then they will be able to shout out in the meeting, hey, I was working with Jim the other day. And he really took action on this. He didn’t wait for permission, he didn’t wait for everything to be right, he got action. And then he got feedback. And I saw him do this. And I saw him really, you know, overcome some challenges. And those feedback lessons that he got really provide us a way forward instead of us just talking about it. And so that’s just a very specific example, those kind of shout outs or a peer to peer recognition, allow CEOs to tune in to what’s really going on organization but also allows people to connect together because these peer to peer things are really powerful. Those shoutouts are really important.

One of the other things about the culture that you may not understand is it evolves over time, as your company starts to form, maybe up to employees, or three, or four or five, whatever it is, those early stages are very important for you to define the kind of culture you want. But realize that it changes when you get to 10. It changes again, when you get to 25, it changes again, when you get to 100, it changes again, when you get to 250, all of these shifts are really opportunities for you as a leader, to make sure you’re tuned in to what the culture is doing. And to shape that, and to continue the what you build upon. But realize you have to let go of what it used to be to create the new. One problem area that they get caught up a lot is when you have a culture that’s based on a family. And I’ve made this mistake in my own businesses. But your business is not a family, it’s a business. And people need to realize that everyone’s not going to be protected. You know, if they don’t do their work, they don’t really take ownership of everything, you’re really creating more of a space like a professional athlete to the interview I have coming up is when Mark Randolph and Mark is the former CEO of Netflix, incredible company, incredible growth, you probably know this. But in the very next interview, he talks about how the culture is much more like a professional team than it is a family. So all of this being said, it changes over time. And you’ve got to start early culture begins earlier than you think. All right, this is number seven. And I’ve saved the best for last as we normally do.

Here it is. The not-so-obvious lessons from the leadership of the Inc 5000 are your next level requires a new you. You’ve heard some version of this before. But here’s what I want to give you. Every goal that you want, every breakthrough that you’re searching for, every frustration in your life, all require a new you to address. When you think about that big goal that’s in front of you, and you want to receive that goal, you have to step up and show up in a different way. You have to be a new view. My job as a coach to fast growth leaders is to help them see what is very clear and precise about how they must show up. There are a few tools I use to quiet in the inner voice, that inner dialogue that gets in the way that allows them to step into a bigger, more competent, courageous version of themselves. In order to create and receive the goals in your life that you really want. You have to be a new version of yourself.

A lot of times I asked founder CEOs, this question about what does it take for you to receive this next goal Who do you need to be to receive the goal, and most of the time they come back and say my most authentic self. I love That answer. But here’s the real issue around being your most authentic self. Most of the time, all the pressure that is put on you, leading this company, creating a vision, aligning the people, all of the time constraints, and all of the stress and anxiety you carry with you. And all the things you juggle, don’t allow you to be your most authentic self. Sometimes you just want to break sometimes you want it to be easy, sometimes you want it to be a little bit easier for you to get the results that you want a little bit easier for you to align the people you want people to get along, I get it.

I was a CEO of a fast-growth company. But when you think about being your most authentic self, it requires you to strip away What keeps you from being the most authentic version of yourself. Another tool that I use is around the aspirational core values that you have at a personal level, your company probably has values with each one of us has values of our own. And you have to be willing to let go of the old values and replace them with new aspirational values. I walk my clients through this, I can do this in my sleep now. But I would love for you to understand what that means. It means you’re aligning to the most powerful version of yourself as a leader. If you want to receive your goals, if you want to achieve something new that breakthrough, means you have to show up differently whether it be more confident, more courageous, more focused, more disciplined, could be a lot of different things that you have to understand. And when you understand that it takes a new you to get there.

The battle is one, it’s inevitable because you are aligning everything you have available to you, as a leader, to showing up that new way. And then it’s just a matter of you doing the work. A lot of people want to focus on just the work, they want to put their heads down. Now I coach very successful people. And all of these people are, can do it themselves,

I tell them, but it’s faster. When you truly understand what’s getting in your way, you put a spotlight on it. And you look at the choices in front of you and you make committed decisions about how to move forward. That’s my job, and to hold them accountable for all the steps in that journey. Sometimes I’m giving them new strategies and frameworks, but I’m helping them evolve beyond what they believe is possible. This is my life’s mission. And I share all this with you because I want you to understand what it means to truly become a new version of yourself a new identity. When you really understand what that means you have so much power available to with any challenge or problem that comes in your way, you could actually read it because you’re prepared. All of these nonobvious lessons come from hundreds of interviews with very successful people. So take this in for what it is. I’m here to serve you in a way that no one else serves. Maybe it’s the free content and you continue to learn from the interviews that we do fantastic. Maybe you want something more specific. And if you reach out to me, I’d be happy to share with you some of the frameworks we talked about and go deeper. Or maybe you need a conversation. Maybe your breakthrough is right at the edge right at your fingertips and you just can’t see it yet because you’re so far invested in the issue. Or maybe you’re holding on to the identity that you are today.

So that you can before you can become the person you need to be to receive the goals that are right in front of all of the things that you see as mistakes or see as worries or see as fears. Maybe it’s just in your mind, I can help you go beyond that very quickly. If you’re willing to lean in and listen to what’s really going on inside yourself. And ask yourself the hard questions and do the hard work, the transformation that’s needed. Your new level requires a new year. Now I bring you all of these obvious tips. If you haven’t heard all of them, then make sure you go back and find the full episode on it’s episode number 700. Yep, it’s been seven years. I can’t believe it. But I’m happy to share this ongoing strong, pushing beyond what people believe is impossible for me. And I’m serving those that are very successful and I am enjoying it. So if you’re enjoying and digging this content, make sure you share it with someone that you feel could benefit from it.

When you think about courage, and you think about growth and you think about transformation and breakthroughs. I want you to think of me, Gene Hammett. I want you to think of this podcast and the stories we share on Growth Think Tank. I want you to think of all the things that we are trying to do to help you be the most powerful version of yourself the most authentic version of yourself. If you have any questions whatsoever, make sure to reach out to me at [email protected]. That’s my email address. I’d love for you to reach out. Tell me what you think of the show. Tell me what you think of some of the things that we’re creating for you to be more effective, stronger leaders, being the visionary, being confident, and being unshakable. All of this is in service of you, being the leader that your team craves. When you think about growth, and you think about culture, think of Growth Think Tank, as always lead with courage. What’s the next time.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.


Inc 5000 Founders 700th Episode



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